Talking about sex, diseases and pregnancy to teenagers is not an easy or comfortable task, but it is an important one. Teenagers today are growing up faster than ever before and, consequently, parents need to maintain an open dialogue with their children.
Here are some tips for parents tackling the subject of sex and its consequences in an effective and comfortable manner:
- Really get to know your child.
- As children go through emotional and physical changes, it is important to try to understand what is happening in their lives. Frequently ask your kids what they are thinking and how they are feeling.
- Begin with a comfortable subject.
- Breaking the ice can be a challenge. Use events from everyday life, whether it be their friends or your own experience. Begin by discussing these situations and then steer the conversation to personal issues.
- Be direct and honest.
- When you show that you are open and nonjudgmental, your child will be encouraged to also speak candidly. Do not use the "birds and the bees" terminology; instead be direct in your language choices. Your child will benefit from learning the correct terms.
- Share experiences.
- It is helpful to give examples or stories because children have difficulty grasping some information. Relate an experience you had growing up.
- Listen to your child.
- Stop whatever you are doing to focus your attention and listen to your child. Make eye contact. Acknowledge what your child is saying to show that you understand and, if you don't understand, ask for clarification.
- Encourage your child to ask questions.
- When you do not have the answers, simply let your child know that you are not sure how to answer his/her question. However, do not turn children away when they have expressed an interest in discussing these matters.
- Keep the door open.
- Let your child know that you are available and willing to continue the conversation anytime.
To confidentially speak to someone about communicating with your child about AIDS/HIV, STDs and unintended pregnancy, call the Illinois AIDS/HIV and STD Hotline at 1-800-243-2437.